On the Series
*All of the pressure heading into game 6 tonight is on Pittsburgh and the pressure will be monumental if Montreal is able to force a game 7. However, if there’s a team that is equipped to handle any kind of pressure it’s Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh has clinched a playoff series five straight times on the road.
*Depleted by injuries to their backend that continue to mount, Montreal’s ability to limit Evgeni Malkin (1g-2a) and Sidney Crosby (3 assists) to just six points combined is impressive in it self. The Canadiens defensive scheme under Jacques Martin deserves a lot of credit for the success against the Penguins stars.
In the Canadiens first round series they did not have that kind of success against Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom who combined for 19 points in the series.
*Evgeni Malkin is not lighting up the stat sheet but there have been times over the past three games where he has been dominant and appears close to taking over a game. A positive sign for Pittsburgh heading into game 6.
*The Canadiens have made great adjustments throughout the series defensively but not so much offensively. Pittsburgh has shown the ability to close out games once they get a two goal lead. The Canadiens defensive system limits their ability to mount comebacks from deficits of two goals or more.
*Sidney Crosby has gone six games without a goal and tonight is the type of game where he steps up and carries his team to a victory.
*The Canadiens cannot match Pittsburgh’s physical play when the Penguins are playing with the kind of physical presence they had in game 5. What Pittsburgh hasn’t done is play that physical on a nightly basis.
*Marc Andre Fleury showed in game 5 that when he’s on top of his game, he’s one of the best goaltenders in the National Hockey League. The problem for Fleury though is that inconsistent play continues to plague him this post-season and it’s been an issue since about Janaury. He has yet to put together two straight dominant games in the series.
*Jaroslav Halak has proved that he is a rising star in the league and he has the look of a goalie who won’t just be a one year playoff wonder. However, don’t be surprised to see the Canadiens explore Halak’s trade value leading up to the draft. The 25 year old is a restricted free agent and Halak’s agent Allan Walsh is believed to be seeking a Marc Andre Fleury type of deal.
Halak’s value will never be higher than it is right now.
*Chris Kunitz value as a player comes out in the playoffs. He is fourth in the NHL in hits (44) and has been a consistent physical presence on Sidney Crosby’s line despite playing with a bum shoulder. In the regular season his inconsistencies offensively leads to some negativity along with his cap hit ($3.75 million) but Kunitz is the type of player you win championships with.
*The past two games Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to exploit Canadiens defenseman Marc Andre Bergeron (minus-10) who struggles mightily in the defensive zone. Dan Bylsma was aggressive in the first two games in trying to get Crosby or Malkin up against Bergeron but that matchup has been rare since game 3.
*The Montreal Canadiens have a combined plus/minus rating of minus-33 in the playoffs.